Brent Carr Ellison, Game Designer
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Dungeon: PolarisDungeon: The AnkhStory: Tokyo FlashbackOther TSW work

The Ankh

The Ankh is an Egyptian Temple to an evil god that extends deep down to a lake of bubbling filth. The Orochi Group, a multinational corporation, recently excavated the complex and disturbed the ancient forces below.

I wrote the original concept and level design documents, made the initial greybox, designed and scripted all encounters and AI, and worked with artists, animators and sound designers to complete the experience.

With The Polaris done and several other levels well in the works, this dungeon came together very quickly and went from blockout to completion in just a few months.

Doctor Klein, the filth-tainted German archaeologist in charge of the operation, serves as the dungeon's chief antagonist and narrator (over the intercom). Building the level around this character made for a much more dramatic and memorable experience.

The layout in this dungeon is particularly unusual. In the first half the players move carefully downward, making their way around and across a very deep shaft.

Upon reaching the bottom, the temple complex continues into a massive cavern flooded with filth.

Encounter mechanics in The Ankh revolve around the theme of players coordinating specific responsibilities that they have to execute away from the rest of the group.

To get the party used to having to rely on each other, the purple Motes of Aten latch onto anyone they touch, preventing them from using any abilities. They can only be driven away by damage from another player.

The party's first face-to-face encounter with Doctor Klein takes place on a narrow bridge.

The challenge level is high and the fight is always intense, but the mechanics are clear. Players just need to follow two simple rules to stay alive:

• When an attack comes down your side, move to the other side

• When Doctor Klein fires his big attack, run back and hide behind the fallen pillar

During this minor encounter with a spider guardian, Doctor Klein calls in some assistants to boost its power. By tagging them with a hit, the players can make the adds change their focus and stop the charge-up.

It's important that players understand this mechanic, because they must do the same thing to the doctor himself in the final encounter.

The second boss, Melothat, is an unstoppable beast. Players must stay out of his range and kill him before they run out of space. Player roles are divided up based on perspective:

• Players damaging the boss must face him and stay a certain distance ahead

• Players clearing the way forward must break open gates and kill their guards

The boss runs forward on health events to apply more pressure on the party. This ensures that the last moments of the battle will always have the players' backs to the wall.

The final encounter takes place on and around a statue with multiple levels of scaffolding over a pit of filth. Here, players must take on both Melothat and Doctor Klein at once.

Whenever Klein appears, a player must leave the rest of the party distracting Melothat on the floor and run up the scaffolding to drive the Doctor away.

I worked with the artists to craft the geometry for maximum drama - so separated players see each other doing their roles from a distance.

Once Melothat has been defeated, the whole group heads to the top for the ultimate showdown.

Next: Tokyo Flashback